There was a time when an Elite angler could consistently do well during a season with an “all-or- nothing,” fish-to-win mentality.
That worked pretty well for me in the early years of my career. But the Bassmaster Elite Series field has grown a lot more competitive. Now, if you throw caution to the wind every day of an event, it can cost you a season.
That’s because we’ve seen an influx of proven FLW winners joining the Elite Series. These guys aren’t rookies. In addition, Bassmaster Open anglers gaining Elite Series qualification are experienced and talented as well.
The margin for error in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year (AOY) race, or even earning a Bassmaster Classic berth, is much smaller today.
I learned that this year even though I won two Elite tournaments and a bracket title. After securing a Classic spot in mid-season, I adopted a “go for broke” mentality and it really hurt me in my overall season standing (30th).
To win the AOY title – my annual goal - you better focus on consistency when competing against this experienced bunch of anglers.
Just look at the top finishers last season; Gerald Swindle never won an event, yet he walked away with the title based on a string of Top 12 finishes. You won’t find many, if any “bombs,” among anglers in the top 10 AOY standings.
Sure, I could say I had a pretty good season with three wins, but the end result was disappointing. I recorded some of my worst-ever finishes because my stubbornness near the end of the season prevented me from recovering from bad starts and finishing higher overall in the AOY.
My goal next year is to accept those moments sooner when things aren’t happening and make adjustments that focus on moving up the standings late in a tournament and getting those valuable points that determine AOY.
Don’t misunderstand – I will always fish to win, but I have to recognize earlier in an event that my game plan to win isn’t working and make changes. I need to find a balance between waiting for an area or pattern to develop and making changes to salvage a respectful finish when things aren’t going well.
It’s hard thing to do when you’re so familiar with a lake and have a history of success there. I’ve come to realize that I can’t continue to rely upon strategies that worked two, five or 10 years ago. To be competitive on the Elites, you have to be willing to adapt to the conditions in front of you.
I’ve been thinking less this offseason about improving techniques and more about the judgement errors I made last year and what I need to correct them.
It’s not a matter of changing my style; I’ll always be a power fisherman. But I have to change my thought process.
Because, frankly, being a successful pro angler boils down to the decisions you make during practice and competition throughout a season. That is what determines the AOY standings from top to bottom.
I hope to do a better job of decision making and time management on competition days. I have to let go of the past and fish the conditions and situation in front of me.
Like I’ve said for years, it’s all about the attitude!